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Supreme Court members  must remain above the fray, Justice Samuel Alito told an audience Monday.
Supreme Court members must remain above the fray, Justice Samuel Alito told an audience Monday.Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The US Supreme Court should never concern itself with popularity and must remain above the fray when there is strong public reaction to its rulings, Justice Samuel Alito said Monday in a luncheon speech.

‘‘It’s fine if we are not all that popular,’’ Alito told an audience of more than 1,100 lawyers and business people. ‘‘There is a reason why the Constitution gives federal judges life tenure. We are supposed to do our jobs without worrying whether our decisions are pleasing to anybody.’’

Alito spoke to a joint meeting of the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches and the Palm Beach County Bar Association, drawing the largest audience ever for such an event, organizers said.

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His staff did not permit the speech to be recorded, and Alito noted that the justices remain somewhat behind the times in terms of using such common technologies as e-mail. ‘‘We are an old-fashioned institution, and in my opinion that is a good thing,’’ he said.

And in a speech at Yale University in New Haven on Monday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who grew up poor in the Bronx, described how she navigated the new worlds of Ivy League universities and the nation’s highest court. She said she has a competitive drive to improve herself and is not afraid to ask questions.

Sotomayor, the first Hispanic on the US Supreme Court, attended Princeton and Yale Law School. She joined the court in 2009.

Alito, nominated by President George W. Bush, took his seat in early 2006. He is generally considered part of the nine-member court’s conservative wing, but he cautioned his audience to beware of labels.

Associated Press